Audra McLaughlin's UK debut was by no means an easy first appearance. Having to follow Alan Finlan who had brought forward a lot of the love gathered from his appearance last year on the Paddock Stage, into his Main Stage debut. He was not going to be an easy act to follow having delivered an emotionally charged set,including a couple of crowd pleasing country classics that has enabled the crowd to find its singing voice.
From the moment Audra hit the stage, the Buckle & Boots crowd simply loved her. Immediately taking the microphone from its stand she was a permanent blur of activity, prowling the stage, hitting the big notes from the very start. With Eddy Smith And The 507 providing solid support despite having had the barest minimum of rehearsals this was to be a set to savour.
By the time we hit "Can't Buy Fun Like This", the title that would be seen all over the site, in the festivals best selling t shirt, Audra ws to be found jumping up and down sending her hair flying everywhere. With a super charged guitar riff running through the track, this took the song to another level.
As she moved on to "Headed For The Fall" the state of perpetual motion continued, her head banging saw her her hair whiplash forward making her a photographers dream, while all the time she would point to familiar faces she had picked out in the crowd. The opening trio of songs passed by in what seemed like seconds at a frantic pace - with Audra's voice sounding even stronger than she does on record, but not in a needless showy way as is more often the case with UK reality show contestants.
The pace was to slow a little with "Drinking With Lonely", with Audra at least initially, displaying a more restrained style - it was a song that later in the weekend would provide one of the festivals top five moments. By the time she hit the awesome closing hign note you feared for the bottles behind the bar as she hit the high note with such power and purity.
By contrast "Beautiful Pain" was a delicious soulful blues number which once again saw Audra produce some exquisite singing as she extended the words in the title.
Like Alan before her, Audra came with a couple of classic covers of her own, the first being Dolly Parton's "I Will Alway Love You" which began with Audra performing a capella. If ever a song was built for Audra it was this one. Eddy found time for a scorching organ solo and there was a lovely moment where Eddy signalled for the band to go quiet just before hitting that final big note and then when it came - whoosh!
Audra has her own power ballads as well and "I Don't Wanna Feel The Sun" saw her step off the stage to stand on the speaker cabinets to get closer to the crowd - we're not sure if she realised but at times she was inches from skewering her high heels into the large holes in the cabinet which would surely have caused a major injury! It all added a little jeopardy into what was already a rivetting performance,
The show was to end in somewhat unusual circumstances as Audra outed herself as being an old school rocker even showing off her Led Zeppelin tattoo.
it was the cue for the arrival of Sally Rea Morris of Gasoline & Matches to take to the stage for a run through of the Zep classic "Whole Lotta Love" playing its famous guitar riff. This was the time for all out rock posing, drum solos and even at one point Audra falling to her knees before laying on her back.
To close, things went even rockier with Guns & Rose's "Paradise City" not your classic country fare but the audience lapped it up. It saw Audra once again risk injury venturing out off stage and eventually saw a closing with the band speeding up the song to a frenetic pace. If anyone didn't know Audra at the start of the set they certianly did by the end of it!!!